Pittsburgh Pirates: With Cole Tucker Recalled, Kevin Newman Surging At Right Time

Photo Credit: Chuck Meyers/Altoona Mirror

 The Pittsburgh Pirates recalled former first round pick Cole Tucker from the Indianapolis Indians on Friday, and in a corresponding move, placed outfielder Ka'ai Tom on the injured list.

It's a move that probably won't be of any significance, with Tom getting placed on the injured list, Tucker was the only position player in Indianapolis that was also on the 40-man roster. 

But I think it's a good time to also recognize the reason he probably won't see much (if any) playing time during his time with the Pirates.

That's Kevin Newman.

Yes, any metric that involves power is going to stick out for all the wrong reasons but hear me out. 

If you're looking for power, it's not going to be found from the Pirates' shortstop. Just five of Newman's 34 hits this season have gone for extra bases (2 2B, 3B, HR), and he sports a .515 OPS (On-base plus Slugging) in 2021.

That's, not good, no matter how you try and spin it.

But he has played better, especially over the past week. The 27-year old former first round pick out of the University of Arizona has gone 8-of-27 (.296) over the past week and while his OPS (.655) still isn't great, it's over 100-points higher than his season mark.

It doesn't look like he will ever match his power output from 2019 that saw him hit for a batting slash of .308/.353/.446. That year, Newman recorded 38-extra base hits (20 2B, 6 3B, 12 HR) and was making a name for himself for coming through in big moments.

So what happened? 

From an exit velocity, and swing perspective his numbers from this season aren't overall different from 2019.

2019

Year

2021

33.4%

Sweet Spot %

32.4%

85.3

Average Exit Velocity

85.8

24.7%

Hard Hit %

26.2%

9

Barrels

2

2.1

Barrels per Batted Ball Event

1.4

1.7

Barrels per Plate Appearance

1.2

 *Numbers courtesy of Statcast via MLB.com


He's actually hitting the ball harder this season than he did in 2019. While he obviously barreled up the ball at a higher rate in 2019, it's not an overly big difference in his per BBE or PA metrics. 


Whatever the reason is for the disappearance of his power, you can point to his improvement defensively as one of the bigger developments to unfold this season.


Had Tucker been able to take the next step with his hitting, it would have made for a welcome transition for Newman to move from shortstop to second base on a full-time basis. During the 2019 and 2020 seasons, Newman ranked among the worst at the position in Outs Above Average (OAA) finishing a combined -10 in that span.


In 2020, he ranked 33rd among 39 qualifying shortstops. The year before, when he was providing some offensive output, he ranked 30th of 35 with an -8 OAA.


This season Newman ranks third at the position with a +2 OAA. He trails only Nick Ahmed of the Arizona Diamondbacks, and Andrelton Simmons of the Minnesota Twins. He sits in a tie with Francisco Lindor, Brandon Crawford and Carlos Correa. Pretty good company to be included into.



While it would be nice to get some offensive production, something the Pirates are desperate for, at this point it's welcomed that he isn't hurting them on defense. He's been able to pitch in some offense over the past week, and over the course of 162 games you'd imagine that's going to happen here and there.

Tyler Anderson (Value) Takes Another Beating

Talking about the Pirates is also talking about the future, and when you throw Tyler Anderson into that mix the real end game is what kind of return he will get at some point this season.


Starting to get that feeling they missed out on getting the maximum value on him after his last two starts. It's a long year, these starts will happen but Anderson was beat up pretty good against the Atlanta Braves.


The lefty has now allowed five home runs over his last two appearances - he had allowed just three up to that point in the season. His ERA in his first seven starts, 3.04 but in his last two games it has been 11.70. He has seen that same ERA rise 1.68 points in the last two games.


Not good if you're just looking to flip him for something at some point in the season.

Brennan Malone Struggles With Control

The Pirates' eighth ranked prospect, according to MLB.com, made his third appearance of the season Friday night - it was also the first outing he had where he went multiple innings.


Malone pitched 1 2/3 innings against the Lakeland Flying Tigers, only allowed one hit but walked four batters as he had trouble finding the strike zone. Of his 40 pitches, only 18 went for strikes and he allowed two unearned runs.


On the season, the 20-year old Malone has pitched 3 2/3 innings, allowed four hits and four unearned runs, has hit a batter, walked five and struck out two.


The stuff is undeniable, and the control will come - that's why he's in Low-A. The most encouraging thing is him starting to get stretched out into a multi-inning role.

Mitch Keller Gets Start On Saturday

I won't spend too much on this, but as I covered earlier in the week, while Keller made progress in his last start against the San Francisco Giants, he won't take the next step until his secondary stuff improves and he shows he can do that multiple games in a row. 


Maybe the Braves will be too tired from putting 20 runs on the board on Friday?


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